The 10-member countries and observers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Central Asian regional security grouping, pledged on Wednesday to work together on combating terror and improving financial co-operation among Asian nations to combat the financial crisis.
India, one of four observer countries at the SCO, reiterated its desire to work with the group’s Regional Counter Terrorism Structure (RCTS) to share intelligence data and boost counter-terrorism initiatives.
Murli Deora, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas and the Prime Minister’s representative at Wednesday’s meeting, called for the SCO to adopt a “zero tolerance policy” on terrorism. “The need of the hour is to have greater cooperation, exchange of information and coordination,” he said. India had sought “a mutually beneficial Association” with the RCTS and was “ready to complete the required formalities”.
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao joined Mr. Deora in calling for greater co-operation among central Asian nations in combating the “three forces” of separatism, terrorism and extremism.
But the real focus on Wednesday was on economics, and how Central Asian nations could work together to improve financial co-operation. A communiqué issued on Wednesday called for co-ordinating anti-financial crisis measures, but defined little in the way of concrete steps the countries would take. Mr. Wen called for “promoting international financial system reform” and “improving trade settlement payment systems”, but did not elaborate on specific measures.
The SCO was set up in 2001 largely as a security organisation, but its ambit has since widened. Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday the organisation could play a role in reshaping the international financial system in the wake of the financial crisis, which he said was a “catalyst for reform.” The SCO has six member countries — China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. India, along with Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia are the regional group’s four observers. Wednesday’s meeting was the eighth meeting of the Heads of State of the member countries.
Mr. Deora, India’s representative, said the nature of the grouping had “a right mix” of energy producing and energy consuming countries and could hence provide for a platform to improve the stability of energy markets. He said the SCO countries could work towards a “co-operative framework” on energy security to ensure “stability and predictability” of energy markets.
The SCO’s meeting was somewhat over-shadowed by the 40 deals China and Russia announced on Tuesday, worth $3.5 billion.